The Old Man

The Old Man

Mysterious Book Report No. 284

by John Dwaine McKenna

Sixty some years ago, when I was just a boy back in the ‘50s, every year at Thanksgiving my parents would take me and my two younger brothers for “Turkey-Day” at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s house down in Westchester County.  Pop would fill up the trunk of the car  with a present of seasoned, cut and split hardwood fireplace logs, Ma would dress all of us in our best clothes and we’d set off early in the morning from our southern Catskill farm for the two-hour drive down to Bedford Hills and a sumptuous dinner that beat anything Alice’s Restaurant had to offer.  That’s because Aunt Ruth had turkey and trimmings down to absolute perfection.  The bird, a monster twenty-five pounder, was always crispy golden outside, juicy inside, and full of her secret homemade celery stuffing.  The mashed potatoes and giblet gravy never had a lump, the table was set to perfection and there were so many side dishes that they wouldn’t all fit on a single dinner plate.  And, she managed to do it all, perfectly, year after year from a tiny little galley-style kitchen about twelve square feet in size.  Somehow, from that rudimentary space, she put our whole family into a food coma that lasted for days.  She was so good at it that she made the near impossible look easy . . . as does the author of this week’s Mysterious Book Report.

The Old Man, (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, $26.00, 337 pages, ISBN 978-0-80212585-6) By Thomas Perry is honed and polished to a razor-sharp brilliance by one of the most accomplished thriller writers working in crime fiction today.  The action, suspense and drama begins in the first paragraph and doesn’t let up until the last sentence on the last page.  It is a sure-enough tour-de-force that will keep the reader nailed in place waiting and watching to see if old age and cunning will prevail over youth and exuberance as the adventure plays out.  The novel begins in rural Vermont, where we’re introduced to a widower and retiree named Dan Chase.  He’s in his sixties, has a grown daughter and a pair of large dogs who are devoted to him.  Outwardly, he’s a typical older man, living a quiet, unassuming, low-key lifestyle . . . the same as he has for the past thirty-five years.  Privately however, Chase is an altogether different hombre.  The kind who maintains four different ID’s, keeps a pair of Beretta 9mm Nanos and a .45 caliber Colt Commander close at hand, as well as a “bug-out kit” stuffed with money, guns, clothes and multiple identities in case he has to make a fast getaway.  He stays in peak physical condition and has multiple escape routes in mind at all times.  That’s because thirty-five years ago, the man calling himself Dan Chase was a rising star in a clandestine world.  As an Army Intelligence Officer, he was tasked with delivering a large amount of American currency to a Libyan middleman who was to deliver it in turn to a rebel group who was set upon overthrowing the dictator, Mu’ammar al Gaddafi.  When the middleman keeps the cash, Chase administers some street justice, keeps the dough and goes home to the USA.  Now, a change of governments in Libya has Dan Chase lined up in the gunsights of some nasty operatives who keep trying to kill him.  The Old Man is one of the absolute best thrillers MBR has ever reviewed.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish as author Perry displays his absolute mastery of the writer’s craft.  Just like my Great Aunt Ruth did all those years ago, Thomas Perry is so good at what he does, that he makes the impossibly difficult look easy.  As an added benefit, there’s more than twenty other novels of his to enjoy including, The Butchers Boy, which won an Edgar and Poison Flower, named by Booklist as one of the “101 Best Crime Novels of the Past Decade.”  Thomas Perry is among the best of the best! Enjoy!

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